Meet five fearless woman who chase ambulances
They simultaneously conduct phone interviews, watch the news, scroll through tweets and try to decipher the heavily coded language that sometimes comes out of five scanners at once.
As a student in Loyalist College’s photojournalism program eager to shoot – well, almost anything – the two four-letter words 'spot news' never failed to strike fear in my heart and elicit a chorus of grumbles and moans.
Had I fled law school only to become an ambulance chaser, that most reviled of all lawyers?
Spot news generally refers to hard-hitting news that is unplanned or unexpected. It is the death and destruction aspect of the news industry – from fires and killings to natural disasters.
Chasing spot news means talking to people who often don’t want to talk to you. It involves encounters with people who have just experienced some sort of loss, misfortune or heartbreak. And for an
industry newbie like me, it often involves feeling, at best, like a thorn in someone’s side and at worst, like a circling, swooping vulture.
We all have our idiosyncrasies. I’m a little sensitive and dislike being disliked. It actually makes me physically uncomfortable. I’m fairly certain that I turn red as a morning sunrise when somebody
yells at me. But I love photojournalism and so reluctantly completed my spot news assignments, mortified as I was.
Imagine, then, the irony of ending up a Toronto Star radio room intern. “The box,” as it is affectionately known, is all spot news and no photos. None of what I love and all of what I had previously approached with anxiety and consternation.
We “boxers” staff the radio room 24/7. There are five of us rotating this summer, all young and fresh-faced and female. We work alone, in eight-hour shifts, monitoring all the breaking news that’s fit to print and much that isn’t. We simultaneously conduct phone interviews, watch the news, scroll through tweets and try to decipher the heavily coded language that sometimes comes out of five scanners at once. We talk to editors, write stories, take dictation and field phone calls.
It’s a fitting job for us 20-somethings from the generation of A.D.D and multitasking.
For eight hours at a time, our whole lives are contained in one 10 x 15 foot room. We pack our meals and hasten our bathroom trips lest the city crumble to dust while we are not looking. Our greatest fear is
letting something slip by us and, in doing so, letting down the amazing team of editors and journalists we work with. We are quickly learning to adapt to those seemingly endless overnight shifts and do
whatever we have to do to stay alert. Resting our eyes is simply out of the question.
People say it is good to step out of your comfort zone. Sitting in the radio room at 5 a.m., with five scanners to my right, a phone and television to my left and an empty, sprawling newsroom before me, I
feel as though I have rocketed out of mine. My comfort zone, for the time being, is gone. I left it in Kingston, 260 kilometres east of here, when I moved two weeks ago.
But already, merely four shifts into my four-month contract, I can feel the fear and panic beginning to subside. More importantly, each shift has been a valuable learning experience and I am on my way to
becoming a better journalist. In time, perhaps a new comfort zone will be established.
In an hour, editors will begin trickling in. By the time I leave at 8 a.m., the newsroom will be steadily building to its busy, buzzing self, full of talented people who will help me grow and who I will look up to for as long as I am here.
And although standing outside in the sunlight after a whole night in the box makes me feel like I’m viewing the world while standing on my head, I realize that I am, in fact, gaining an entirely new perspective on the world.
Before I go, I would like to introduce my colleagues and myself. We are getting to know you intimately, Toronto, so it only seems fair.
I’m Galit Rodan and the other wonderful women I work with are Zoe McKnight, Sarah Ratchford, Aleysha Haniff and Amanda Kwan.
We thank you in advance for your patience and understanding as we experience your ups and downs with you.
Galit Rodan is a brand new Toronto Star reporting intern. Last month, she was named the Loyalist College photographer of the year.